Designers Offer Insights Into Expectations

Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: What are your expectations for the kitchen and bath industry in the near future? Following are some of their responses.

“I am expecting things to improve, however business will likely remain slow throughout the entire industry for the foreseeable future. Our area saw some good activity at the end of 2009 that has carried through. In fact, we’re still doing some of the clean up on certain projects and making deliveries on others that came our way during that period.

Some of my competitors fell out of the market more than a year ago, and there is still some fallout happening now. Honestly, I am not sure [the challenges] are quite over yet for our industry, but I choose to stay positive and expect things to get better eventually.”

Rich Norman, owner
Kitchen & Bath Design Center
Fort Collins, CO

“I think things are going to get better throughout the industry. I’ve gotten a nice amount of projects from remodeling. That’s where I think everything is heading.

Right now, I’m noticing that the people who have money may not want to go out and purchase a new home, but they do have the money to update what they already have and make it more comfortable, more livable and more beautiful. I am noticing that happening more instead of people looking to plunge into the unknown mortgage market. That’s why I tell people that the best way to raise the value of their home is to invest in kitchen improvements. They also see that the benefit is that they get to use the kitchen even if they don’t want to sell the home right away.

I also see a shift in customers spending more time cooking together instead of going out to dinner. It creates more of a family [unit], with everyone wanting to contribute to the cooking. I think that will affect how we, as designers, approach consumers.

From a professional perspective, I also find that when I go out to a job site, I’m doing much more work than I normally would have done in the past.”

Katherine L. Lynn, designer
Kitchens by Jeanne
Santa Fe, NM

“What I am seeing is that folks have deferred projects and many are adopting a wait-and-see approach.

A year ago, we didn’t know where the bottom was. Yet I’ve seen a lot of folks in the past few years who have targeted kitchen remodels for their home. Overall, I see fewer people interested in ‘moving up’ – instead they are saying they are happy with [their] neighborhood.

I am very optimistic that the pent-up demand will start to loosen and hopefully the money, the credit and banks will follow, as well. While a lot of kitchen specialists were working with new construction up until recently, we have been heavily focused on remodeling for about 10 years now.

[Despite spending cut backs], we still do promotions, but they are limited, and we let our manufacturers and our cabinet suppliers know about them. Those have been effective. So, yes, I am optimistic for the future of the industry based on these factors.”

Scott D. Koehler, CKD, g.m.
My Dream Kitchen
Greensboro, NC

“Overall, I see the market opening, and there will be a ‘new normal’ that will define itself over time, such as a focus on value over making a splash with the ‘wow’ factor. What used to be is unlikely to be again.

During this ‘Great Recession’, our entire industry has seen a change in people’s attitudes toward money and spending in their home. If a consumer is going to spend a certain amount of dollars on a renovation, they want to know what they are getting for that money – and if you can’t convince them of [the value of] that, I think you are going to be on the losing end.

In fact, over the past couple of years, there has been a great deal of fear throughout the industry. It used to be, ‘Wait until February when my bonus comes in.’ Now it’s, ‘I hope I still have a job in February.’ People are starting to learn to live with what they really have as opposed to what they might get.

One of the important things we’ve done is to aggressively market to our installed base of clients, and mine them for even small jobs. Things we wouldn’t even touch two years ago, such as partial bathroom remodels, are things we are now doing.

We have addressed the economy with a very aggressive marketing stance – not only have we marketed to our installed base, but we have also marketed to interior designers and architects – and that is beginning to pay off. The bunker mentality has proven not to work in our business.”'

Alan Asarnow, CMKBD, CR, CID
Ulrich, Inc.
Ridgewood, NJ

“I believe that the trend to increase the kitchen footprint will continue in the near future. We’ll eliminate dining rooms, kitchen dinette areas and other open spaces in favor of large island areas with casual seating that’s flexible for everyday living.

Good things will also come in pairs as we look ahead. Two islands – one for food preparation and another for dining and entertaining – will become more common in the kitchen. Two dishwashers, double ovens and two sinks, such as one main sink and a smaller sink in the food prep island, will also be in demand [which will cause many designers to rethink kitchen spaces to accommodate this need].”

Jim Grosspietsch, principal
Studio G Kitchen & Bath
Chicago, IL